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This Week in Kings (12/2/13)

Over the course of an 82-game, six-month-plus NHL regular season, there are bound to be weeks that are more enjoyable than others. This one would fall into that “others” category, because sweet jesus it was terrible. Yes, the Kings’ record wasn’t particularly bad and they did in fact tie a franchise record along the way, but getting to that point was painful. Two of the three games were awful to watch (for vastly different reasons), and though the other one was probably the most entertaining game of the season, it was still a loss to one of our most hated rivals. Not a fun week of hockey.

This Week in News

(any big stories from the past week, both in LA and around the division. if there aren’t any, maybe we’ll just make some things up.)

-Hey, for the first time in over a month, there are no new Kings injuries to report this week! Yeah! In fact, arguably the biggest news story of the week was a return from injury, as Jeff Carter finally returned to the Kings lineup in Monday’s abortion of a game with Vancouver. He had been out since October 30th with a foot injury of some kind, missing 10 games in that span (the Kings probably didn’t miss him as much as you might have expected, going 6-1-3 while he was out). More good injury news also came down earlier today, as Matt Frattin appears poised to return to the lineup tonight against St. Louis after being out for the last four (not good news would be those lines from this morning and the fact that Colin Fraser is likely replacing Linden Vey tonight, bleh).

-There were a few big roster moves out of Anaheim, as Nick Bonino re-signed for a 3-year deal worth $5.7 million. That’s a mighty hefty raise from a $700,000 per year two-way deal, as the AAV now clocks in at $1.9 million. He’s already approaching his career high in points this season (he has 16 points in 27 games, and his career high is 18), so that’s nice, but that number still seems kind of high for Nick friggin’ Bonino. Meanwhile, the Ducks sent two of their more highly-touted prospects, SoCal native Emerson Etem and Devante Smith-Pelley, to AHL Norfolk. Also by the way Anaheim Calling actually calls their links posts “Duck Tales”. Yeah, just thought I would point that out.

-This week’s first “apparently nothing happened” team is San Jose, as searching for news on them brings up absolutely nothing, not even Patrick Marleau crashing a luxury SUV again. Oh well.

-In a curious one, the Phoenix Coyotes signed Gilbert Brule to a one year, two-way deal. It’s not so much curious that they would sign Brule, who continues to get chance after chance despite being basically a perennial disappointment since his draft year (sixth overall to Columbus in 2005, five spots earlier than some Slovenian dude you may have heard of), but because the deal came five days after a KHL team announced they had signed him! Brule has some history with the Yotes, as he was a waiver-wire pickup during the 2011-12 season where they of course went to the conference finals, posting 14 points in 33 regular season games and 3 points in 12 playoff games along the way. It’s still a bit of a weird signing for a team that hasn’t had any trouble scoring at all so far this season (they’re currently fifth in the league with 3.04 goals per game, and have been as high as second pretty recently), but perhaps this is a sop to the fact that their underlying numbers aren’t too good, suggesting their current goal scoring pace is probably not sustainable.

-Hey, so the Heritage Classic between Vancouver and Ottawa is a thing that’s totally happening, and I even have proof if you don’t believe me: here’s ticket information and pictures of the jerseys they’ll be wearing. Nothing too exciting about the jerseys, as they’re really just slight variations on throwbacks that both teams have worn before, but “nothing too exciting” is basically the theme of this game, I think; it’s the last one of like a zillion outdoor games so we’ll all be beyond sick of them by then (and it comes just a day after a more interesting Pittsburgh-Chicago game at Soldier Field), it’s not even necessarily outdoors since BC Place has a retractable roof, and it features easily the least popular Canadian team of them all (sorry, Sens fans!). Whatever, I’m sure it will still make the NHL lots of money, which will help raise the salary cap next year and since the Kings are apparently a cap team now (go back in time and tell someone that in like 2007 and see how much they laugh) that’s obviously a good thing.

-Hey, want to feel even worse about the Kings’ loss to Calgary on Saturday? The Kings lost to a Calgary team battling the injury bug, so their already-awful roster wasn’t even at close to full strength. Forwards T.J. Galardi and Sean Monahan and defenseman Dennis Wideman all went on the IR this week, and those are not exactly inconsequential pieces in this thing lineup. Some good news for Calgary on the injury front was captain Mark Giordano practicing with the team for the first time since breaking his ankle in late October.

-In Edmonton, Ilya Bryzgalov had his first start of the season with his new team on Thursday, and stopped all 33 shots he faced en route to his team beating Nashville 3-0. Just three days later, however, Bryz would be forced to leave the game in Dallas after a scary collision with Ryan Garbutt. All that’s coming out of Edmonton as I write this is “upper-body injury”, with no word on the severity or if it’s a concussion (as some have speculated).

-Finally, I saved the biggest news of the week for last: in what was obviously huge news for our three Canadian clubs but also for every team in the NHL as well, the NHL signed a record 12-year, $5.232 billion (Canadian) dollar deal with Rogers for the exclusive national, multiplatform Canadian media rights. Obviously the main piece of it is television, with more games than ever before airing on Canadian TV over all of Rogers’ networks (here’s an example of what things will look like starting next year that the NHL tweeted out based on the 11/23 Saturday schedule). You probably noticed that CBC is still there; they have retained the right to air NHL games, including the Stanley Cup Final and the traditional Hockey Night in Canada Saturday night broadcast, with a 4-year sub-licensing agreement with Rogers. However, under the terms of the new deal Rogers will have full editorial control over the CBC broadcast, including all of its personalities and broadcasters (early speculation that this could finally be the doom of Don Cherry sounds like it was probably wrong, unfortunately), and the HNIC branding will be extended to the Rogers networks as well. The NHL will also add a marquee Sunday night broadcast in Canada, presumably to be aired on Sportsnet, and they will also take over the TSN Wednesday night national broadcast. TSN, of course, has been locked out of NHL broadcasts for the next 12 years. One last note is that TVA, a relatively upstart French network, has sub-licensed the French-language national rights from Rogers.

This Week in Games

(here’s all the games involving the Pacific Division from this past week. we’ll talk about the LA Kings’ games in great detail, while the rest will mostly just be scores, unless I have something to say about it. you’ll also get links to Eric’s awesome recaps and Nick’s fantastic grades/analysis, which will expand on everything I’m saying in much greater detail if you missed any of them.)

Monday, November 25th

-Nashville Predators 4, Phoenix Coyotes 2

-Chicago Blackhawks 5, Edmonton Oilers 1: The Oilers were riding a 3-game win streak entering this one, which would be a modest success for almost any other team but a gargantuan one for the struggling Oilers. Unfortunately for Edmonton, that streak was of course snapped, thanks mostly to (yet another) poor outing from Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk, who had been playing better, allowed 4 goals on just 14 shots before he was yanked in favor of the aforementioned Mr. Universe (who stopped 12 of 13 the rest of the way).

Los Angeles Kings 3, Vancouver Canucks 2 (OT): This was probably one of the least enjoyable wins you’ll ever watch. First of all, there were the penalties: this game, like many NHL games, suffered from questionable officiating on both sides, and the Kings ended up with 8 minor penalties overall. That’s an insane number even for a team that we’ve all come to expect a lot of penalties from. Luckily for the Kings, the Canucks’ power play is suffering from Torts Disease, a rare condition that renders it almost completely useless (they did finally score a power play goal on the eighth try, so good for them I guess). The Kings looked completely lifeless after falling behind 2-1 in the 3rd on that Henrik Sedin power play goal, but just when all hope looked to be lost, Jeff Carter & Mike Richards made some magic together in Jeff’s very first game back. Richie was somehow left all alone in front of the Vancouver net with under 3 minutes to go in the game, and Carter got him the puck which he quickly put home to tie the game. The Kings would win the game on a very similar play just under a minute into the overtime, as Slava Voynov victimized Kevin Bieksa behind the Canucks’ net and fed Kopitar for one of the easiest OT winners you’ll ever see. Definitely not the Kings’ best game but thanks to a couple of really awful defensive breakdowns by the Canucks that the Kings were able to convert and yet another sterling goaltending performance by Mr. Ben Scrivens (stopping 37 of 39 shots), the Kings escaped with 2 points, and the Canucks’ struggles at home continued (finishing up the homestand with a hilarious 1-2-3 record. ONE TWO THREE!). (recap) (grades & analysis) (gamethread)

Tuesday, November 26th

-Dallas Stars 6, Anaheim Ducks 3: This was the only game on the NHL schedule, which is quite strange for the normally busy Tuesday (probably because there was a full slate of games Wednesday instead of the usual few, due to US Thanksgiving being Thursday), and was thus a national NBCSN game as well. With the spotlight on them, the Ducks responded by having one of the most hilariously terrible collapses in recent history. They entered the 3rd period leading Dallas 2-1, only to give up 3 goals in fifty-three seconds and quickly find themselves trailing 4-2. The Stars added another goal, the Ducks managed to get one back, and the Stars then put in the empty netter to seal a 6-3 win. Way to go Ducks!

Wednesday, November 27th

Phoenix Coyotes 3, Minnesota Wild 1

-Chicago Blackhawks 3, Calgary Flames 2

San Jose Sharks 3, Los Angeles Kings 2 (SO): For most this will probably be the lone bright spot of the week, as the Kings & Sharks played- you’ll never believe this- yet another incredibly skilled and close one-goal game. The two teams combined for forty-two scoring chances (!!!), which according to Nick was nearly double the previous season-high for a Kings game (it was 23-19 LA, 14-12 San Jose at evens, for the record). That does sound tremendously entertaining, and I’m sure for most it was, but personally I hate the Sharks so much that it was mostly just a nonstop series of heart attacks. Exhilarating, yes, but I much would have preferred the Kings to stomp their asses than play yet another incredibly close game. It was nice that the Kings at least got a point after they fell behind on an incredibly fluky goal off a puckhandling gaffe from Scrivens, as the Kings responded with their own equally goofy goal (Doughty threw the puck in front and it went off awful defenseman Scott Hannan’s skate and right into the net) to tie it in the 3rd. The game of course would end up in a shootout, which went a marathon eight rounds before that asshole Joe Thornton finally ended it. Did I mention I hate the friggin’ Sharks?! (recap) (grades & analysis) (gamethread)

Thursday, November 28th

Vancouver Canucks 5, Ottawa Senators 2

Edmonton Oilers 3, Nashville Predators 0: As mentioned earlier, this was Ilya Bryzgalov’s first start as an Oiler (though he had already appeared in relief of Dubnyk in the Chicago game on Monday), and he made the most of it, stopping all 33 shots. Hey, by the way, why are the Nashville Predators, of all teams, the only US team allowed to play on Thanksgiving? I don’t get it.

Friday, November 29th

Anaheim Ducks 5, Calgary Flames 2

San Jose Sharks 6, St. Louis Blues 3

-Columbus Blue Jackets 4, Edmonton Oilers 2: As usual it’s one step forward, two steps back for the Oilers. But hey, at least they don’t play boring hockey like some OTHER teams in their division, amirite???

Saturday, November 30th

-New York Rangers 5, Vancouver Canucks 2: This was of course the John Tortorella vs. Alain Vigneualt coach swap deathmatch (I kid, but judging by the secondary market prices for this game that I had originally wanted to attend, I’m assuming most NY hockey fans actually thought there was going to be a post-game deathmatch between them, because holy crap), and uh, it didn’t go very well for Torts or the Canucks. Roberto Luongo allowed 3 goals on just 10 shots, and Eddie Lack fared only a little better, stopping just 12 of 14, effectively negating the Canucks’ massive 37-24 shot advantage. The main problem was Vancouver’s penalty kill, which had previously been among the league’s best but allowed 2 power play goals on just 3 chances. Oh, and rookie Chris Kreider scored a hat trick against the coach who repeatedly demoted him to the AHL last year and barely used him, which I’m sure was a coincidence.

-Chicago Blackhawks 5, Phoenix Coyotes 2

Calgary Flames 2, Los Angeles Kings 1: I suppose I have to talk about this game. Okay let’s make this quick and simple: the Kings mostly sucked (even though they did have long stretches where they controlled play, but somehow still failed to generate much in the way of chances), the Flames got lucky on a Scrivens puckhandling gaffe (yes, for the second straight game), the Kings came back and tied it in the 3rd, and then that a-hole Mike Cammalleri scored with 23 seconds left to win the game in regulation. So yes, the Flames did in fact do that AGAIN. Sigh. Of course it meant the Kings did not break their franchise record of eleven straight games with at least a point, which is kind of a bummer I guess. (recap) (grades & analysis) (gamethread)

San Jose Sharks 4, Anaheim Ducks 3 (SO): Of course this was a three-point game. Because of course.

Sunday, December 1st

Vancouver Canucks 3, Carolina Hurricanes 2

Edmonton Oilers 3, Dallas Stars 2 (OT)

This Week in Standings

Team GP W L OTL Points ROW GF GA Diff Home Away Last Week
1. San Jose 26 18 3 5 41 15 92 60 +32 10-1-2 8-2-3 3-0-0
2. Anaheim 29 18 7 4 40 17 91 77 +14 10-0-1 8-7-3 1-1-1
3. Los Angeles 27 16 7 4 36 12 70 58 +12 8-4-2 8-3-2 1-1-1
4. Phoenix 26 15 7 4 34 11 85 84 +1 9-2-2 6-5-2 1-2-0
5. Vancouver 29 14 10 5 33 13 77 77 E 5-5-3 9-5-2 2-1-1
6. Calgary 26 9 13 4 22 7 70 93 -23 4-5-3 5-8-1 1-2-0
7. Edmonton 28 9 17 2 20 7 73 95 -22 3-8-0 6-9-2 2-2-0

The standings have now begun to stagnate a bit, as once again the only change was two teams flipping near the top. San Jose passed Anaheim to take over the top position in the division after their win over them in a shootout. They’re only one point ahead of the Ducks, but they have three games in hand on them. The Sharks had by far the best week of the division, which was very middling otherwise, going 3-0-0. The Ducks went 1-1-1, and must now look over their shoulder at the Kings in third (also 1-1-1), who are just four points behind them with two games in hand. If the Kings beat the Blues (which is already underway as I type this), they could tie the Ducks in points and move ahead of them in the standings (since they’ll still have that game in hand) with a win in Anaheim on Tuesday, so that’s obviously shaping up to be a huge game.

The Coyotes remain the buffer zone between the California Top 3 and Canadian Bottom 3 for now, but they’re in a bit of a downward spiral at the moment (which isn’t surprising, as we covered in this column a few weeks back how they looked due for some heavy regression). They followed up last week’s 0-1-1 effort with a 1-2-0 week, and must get it together soon if they want to remain in their Wild Card spot. The Canucks had a pretty solid 2-1-1 week, continuing to feast on weak Eastern Conference competition, but given their strong underlying numbers one has to think they’ll turn their game around against the West too eventually. They’re only a single point behind Phoenix for fourth now, but the Coyotes do still have three games in hand on them.

As always, the Alberta teams bring up the rear. The Flames’ had a pretty crappy 1-2-0 week, and we all know where that one win came of course. They’re now just two points ahead of the Oilers in the battle for not-last, who had a decent-for-anyone-else-but-great-for-the-Oilers 2-2-0 week. Also for the first time this season, the Oilers’ have a better goal differential than the Flames! Yeah!

This Week in #fancystats

(all stats are total attempts, not percentages. thanks to extra skater)

Kings 3, Canucks 2 (OT)

Corsi: Canucks 71-Kings 42 (overall), Canucks 38-Kings 37 (5v5, 39.5 mins), Kings 28-Canucks 23 (5v5 close, 29.4 mins), Kings 21-Canucks 12 (5v5 tied, 18.5 mins)
Fenwick: Canucks 52-Kings 29 (overall), Canucks 29-Kings 26 (5v5, 39.5 mins), Kings 20-Canucks 17 (5v5 close, 29.4 mins), Kings 13-Canucks 10 (5v5 tied, 18.5 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5– Best: Vey (+12), Toffoli (+11), Clifford (+10). Worst: King/Richards (tied, -9), Carter (-7)

Sharks 3, Kings 2 (SO)

Corsi: Sharks 78-Kings 73 (overall), Sharks 60-Kings 44 (5v5, 44.0 mins), Sharks 50-Kings 41 (5v5 close, 37.6 mins), Kings 22-Sharks 13 (5v5 tied, 14.1 mins)
Fenwick: Sharks 62-Kings 51 (overall), Sharks 46-Kings 33 (5v5, 44.0 mins), Sharks 39-Kings 30 (5v5 close, 37.6 mins), Kings 16-Sharks 11 (5v5 tied, 14.1 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5– Best: Stoll (+3), Carcillo/Martinez (tied, +1). Worst: Carter/King/Doughty (tied, -11)

Flames 2, Kings 1

Corsi: Kings 56-Flames 43 (overall), Kings 42-Flames 29 (5v5, 40.4 mins), Kings 30-Flames 24 (5v5 close, 28.0 mins), Kings 30-Flames 24 (5v5 tied, 27.8 mins)
Fenwick: Kings 37-Flames 35 (overall), Kings 26-Flames 23 (5v5, 40.4 mins), Flames 18-Kings 17 (5v5 close, 28.0 mins), Flames 18-Kings 17 (5v5 tied, 27.8 mins)
Indv. Player Corsi 5v5– Best: Williams (+13), Kopitar (+11), Clifford/Brown (tied, +9). Worst: King (-7), Toffoli (-3), Richards/Stoll (-2)

Next Week in the Pacific

(this is exactly what it sounds like: the next week’s schedule for all 7 Pacific Division teams. all times are pacific because, um, duh.)

Team 12/2 12/3 12/4 12/5 12/6 12/7 12/8
LA vs.STL (7:30) @ANA (7:00) vs.NYI (7:30)
SJ @TOR (4:00) @PIT (4:00) @CAR (4:00) @MIN (3:00)
ANA vs.LA (7:00) @CHI (5:00) @STL (5:00)
PHX @EDM (6:30) @CGY (7:00) @VAN (7:00)
VAN @NSH (5:00) vs.PHX (7:00) vs.COL (5:00)
CGY vs.PHX (7:00) vs.COL (6:00) @EDM (7:00)
EDM vs.PHX (6:30) vs.COL (6:30) vs.CGY (7:00)

The Kings start off the week with a back-to-back against St. Louis (already through two periods as I write this, because boo college booooooo) and Anaheim (in a game that could have huge implications for 2nd in the Pacific, as we discussed already in the standings update), then get three days off before hosting the hapless New York Islanders on Saturday. The Isles will be looking for some revenge after the Kings made that amazing 3rd period comeback on Long Island a couple weeks ago, going from down 2-0 to winning in regulation with about 90 seconds left to play, but the Isles also suck really bad so hopefully the Kings can just throttle them this time.

Meanwhile, the Sharks will play four games, all on the road. On the upside, three of those four games are against the East, and the East is quite terrible, so they could be padding their Pacific lead even more (at least they have to play the Penguins, one of maybe two or three East teams who aren’t complete garbage). In Anaheim, the Ducks host the Kings tomorrow night then head off for a quick 2-game road trip. playing the defending champs in Chicago and the Blues in St. Louis on back-to-back nights. That has the potential to be a rough week.

The Coyotes begin a four-game Tribute to the Northwest Division road trip, as they head to Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver this week before finishing the trip in Colorado next Tuesday. Obviously two of those games are quite winnable at least, but the Canucks are hungry for points and if things don’t go well for the Coyotes in Alberta, could be looking at a chance to take their Wild Card spot away. Speaking of those Canucks, they finish their four-game road trip against the Nashville Predators (2011 second round rematch! yeah!) tomorrow night, then begin another long 5-game homestand that will take them through a week from Saturday, where they’ll be obviously hoping to do better than the pathetic (and hilarious) 1-2-3 record they had on their last 6-game homestand.

Finally, the Oilers and Flames are another collision course, as Hockey Night in Canada viewers will once again be treated to THE ALBERTA TOILET BOWL!!! But before we can get to that epic clash of awfulness, the Oilers & Flames will each host the exact same two teams, the Coyotes and Avalanche. Yep.

So that’s another week in the Pacific. As a side note, my apologies that this one went up quite a bit later than usual. My worst-case-scenario was to make sure this got up before Kings-Blues finished so at least the standings part wouldn’t be IMMEDIATELY out-of-date, and yay, worst case scenario averted! See you next week!

Talking Points